Practice Relating to Rule 36. Demilitarized Zones
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands describes the establishment of demilitarized zones on the basis of Article 60 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
0554. It is prohibited for the parties to a conflict to extend their military operations to demilitarized zones. The parties to a conflict may agree to confer demilitarized status on a zone. Such agreement may be concluded verbally or in writing. It should describe, as precisely as possible, the limits of the demilitarized zone and may lay down methods of supervision. A demilitarized zone may also be agreed between States in peacetime.
0555. Within a demilitarized zone no military activities may take place. The zone must remain uninvolved in military operations. The further conditions attached to demilitarized zone status are almost the same as for undefended localities:
- all combatants, as well as mobile weapons and mobile military equipment, must have been evacuated;
- no hostile use may be made of fixed military installations or establishments;
- no hostile acts may be committed by the authorities or by the population;
- all activities linked to the military effort must have ceased.
These arrangements may be made more specific, by agreement.
0556. The presence of persons who enjoy special protection (e.g. civil defence personnel) and police units is not incompatible with the conditions laid down. The party in control of the demilitarized zone must mark it as well as possible with the agreed distinctive signs. These signs must be clearly visible and displayed specifically on boundaries and main roads. If one party breaches the set requirements in a significant area (e.g., uses the zone for military purposes), the zone then forfeits demilitarized status and the opposing party is released from the agreed obligations.
There are still no examples of demilitarized zones under AP I [1977 Additional Protocol I].
There are, however, demilitarized zones on the strength of other treaties and decrees. One example is the peace treaty between the Allies and Italy in 1947, whereby certain zones were designated as such. Under resolution 186 of the United Nations Security Council (1964), UNFICYP set up a demilitarized buffer zone in Cyprus on both sides of the original line of confrontation, to facilitate supervision.
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states: “The parties to the conflict are prohibited from extending their military operations to demilitarized zones.” It also states that “attacking … demilitarized zones” in violation of IHL constitutes a grave breach.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “It is prohibited for the parties to a conflict to extend their military operations to demilitarized zones.”
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states: “It is prohibited to attack demilitarized zones.”
In its chapter on peace operations, the manual states: “Terms such as undefended places, demilitarized zones and neutralized territory … are sometimes described in peace operations as safe havens or safe areas.”
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, it is a crime, during an international armed conflict, to commit “the following acts, when they are committed intentionally and in violation of the relevant provisions of Additional Protocol (I) and cause death or serious injury to body or health: … making … demilitarized zones the object of attack”.